While the swimming pool industry is a “skilled trade,” the technology we use is still relatively new. Other skilled trades such as auto mechanics, plumbing, HVAC, and electrical have been around much longer. And as a result, they’re not “breaking new ground” on new technology nearly as much as the swimming pool industry is.
This is very exciting to me because that means we’re just getting started on making this industry what it can be. Unfortunately, this also means there’s a lot of “trial and error” effort, and a lot of conflicting information. And in some cases, similar information is being delivered with different terminology, which just makes it more confusing.
For example, what would I get if I combined Dihydrogen Monoxide with Sodium Chloride?You would probably have no idea until you recognize that dihydrogen Monoxide is more often referred to as H2O, which is of course water. And Sodium Chloride is just good old-fashioned table salt. So mixing dihydrogen monoxide and sodium chloride will naturally give you “salt water,” which coincidentally is one of the most popular ways to sanitize your pool water.
I use this example because the swimming pool industry can be explained in much the same way. In general, it can be as simple as salt water. But there’s quite a bit of science behind swimming pool maintenance and construction. Which brings up another unique point about the swimming pool industry. Swimming pool maintenance and construction is actually a combination of MANY other skilled trades, including:
- Computer Automation
Not many other careers bring that many different disciplines into one job. Which once again, is why I enjoy this business so much.
For example, a true professional knows what “Total Dynamic Head” is, and how to measure the velocity of water in feet per second as it travels through pipe. He or she also knows the difference between “combined” and “free available” Chlorine, and how to achieve “break point.” They can measure the voltage drop in a piece of wire, and can explain the difference between grounding and equi-potential bonding. They would know what the “compressive strength” of concrete is, and how to reinforce it with steel, and what size and hardness steel to use, and how to space that steel appropriately before shooting the concrete.
So yes, the swimming pool industry is a broad combination of many different skills, sciences and disciplines. So with that much variety, how do you know who to listen to, and who has the right information? It probably seems to you like EVERYONE is an expert on swimming pools these days. (Or at least thinks they are.) And because the industry is so new, and because there are minimal barriers to prevent someone from calling themselves a “pool man,” it’s very difficult for most homeowners to figure out whether or not they are dealing with a reliable source of information.
Let me use a recent example of how frustrating this can be. I was recently called by one of my customers who was concerned about his pool chemistry. His next-door neighbor takes care of his own pool, and offered to come over and check my client’s pool. Since this neighbor maintains his own pool with no apparent difficulty, he is naturally presumed by my client to be a “pool expert.”
There’s just one problem. The neighbor maintains a traditional “plaster” pool of approximately 15,000 gallons. Our client’s pool is an 180,000 gallon monster made out of lava rock, and regularly heated. If you know anything about pools, you can already see how an amateur might use a home test kit, and make some assumptions about chemistry and “water balance” that might not be correct. And that’s exactly what happened in this case.
Now let’s give the neighbor some credit. He said “the water is unbalanced,” and technically, he’s correct. In fact, just about every single swimming pool in Austin Texas is “unbalanced” 99% of the time. That’s because a swimming pool is a dynamic and constantly changing environment. Rain, sunlight, shade, temperature, time of day, size of pool, type of interior finish, hydraulic flow, and a myriad of other issues – including how many hours since the last chemical adjustment – will produce a constantly changing result.
In fact, when testing water samples in the laboratory, it’s statistically impossible to achieve the exact same test results on the same water sample, even if you’re using the exact same test equipment!
As I often tell customers – swimming pool maintenance is never about being “perfect.”It’s about being “close enough” MOST of the time. There are far too many variables to measure and too many inconsistencies to ever be perfect. So we have to settle for working within a “safe range.”
This issue comes into play a lot when bringing test samples into a local swimming pool store. The same water sample will show different results in different tests, no matter who is performing the test.
So back to the original question – Who do you trust? Well, I think it’s best to trust the person who doesn’t pretend to know everything there is to know. (Having all the answers isn’t the answer. But being able to FIND the answer – THAT’S what really matters.)
So I suggest you look for professionals who participate in ongoing education, and continuously work to increase their knowledge and improve their skills. One way to find those people is tolook for pool professionals who are active in the different swimming pool industry associations. Each of these organizations offer a variety of ongoing formal and informal education to their members, to keep them on the “cutting edge” of professional expertise.
In Texas, the most prominent associations include the Independent Pool and Spa Service Association (IPSSA), The Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP), The National Plasterer’s Council (NPC), and The National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF). You’re generally going to be better off trusting information from members of those organizations than the “I taught myself” experts who are NOT members Weather is probably the single most powerful and unpredictable element affecting the cleanliness and functionality of your pool. Different types of weather bring forth their own challenges for swimming pools. Since it’s the beginning of February, let’s talk about three big “weather issues” that will affect your pool this time of year.
Freeze: As recent weather shows, we are by no means immune to sudden freezing temperatures. And the damage caused by freezing can be especially destructive and expensive to repair. (Naturally, it’s the expansion of frozen water in a closed vessel that damages pipes, valves, filters, heaters and pumps.) Fortunately, this damage can by prevented with a simple “freeze protector” which automatically turns on the equipment and circulates the water when it gets close to freezing.
If you don’t have a freeze protector, or aren’t sure, PLEASE CALL US. We can install one in a jiffy, and the cost is a LOT less than the typical cost of repairs.
Wind: Wind’s big impact on your pool or other waterscape is what it blows in. You’ll get not only leaves and dirt, but also smaller particles such as pollen, algae, dust, phosphates, and more. In fact, sometimes wind will blow in contaminants faster than you can remove them. A crystal clear pool can look dirty again in just a matter of hours. So here’s what you should do when it’s windy:
1. If you have an automatic cover, USE IT! (If you DON’T have one but you WANT one, let us know. We can give you quick estimate at no charge.)
2. Empty the baskets. You’ll be amazed how fast these fill up on a windy day. And as soon as they’re full, they stop working, which can make things SIGNIFICANTLY worse in a hurry.
3. Increase your pump running time, to give your filter time to remove the sudden influx of contaminants.
4. Check your water chemistry and adjust as necessary, to make sure it’s capably of sanitizing the water properly.
5. Use your net and/or vacuum to remove any additional debris.
6. Be prepared to REPEAT this process at least DAILY as long as the winds are high.
Rain: Even though we’re in a drought, we still (occasionally) get good solid rains that will play havoc with your pool’s chemistry. That’s because rainwater contains a lot more than just pure H2O. It brings Phosphates, Nitrates and other particles that are normally suspended in the air. It also runs off houses, decks, sidewalks, landscaping and more, bringing with it all kinds of additional contamination. Thus your pool needs to be checked and rebalanced chemically immediately after any good rain, to make sure it is safe for use.
NOTE: A well maintained pool will usually “bounce back” from a rain in less than 24 hours. But a poorly maintained pool could take days or weeks to recover. If you’re not spending at least 20 minutes per week maintaining your pool (or paying someone like us to maintain your pool), then you could be at risk of some very annoying “green” and/or “cloudy water” problems.
I hope the above information is helpful for you. As always, if you ever have questions about the maintenance of your pool – whether we’re maintaining it for you or not – please don’t hesitate to ask.
Here’s to your “Easy Life”!
Owner / Head Specialist, Easy Pools.